February 24, 2013

Local officials plan on LePage's cuts not passing

Towns and cities craft budgets as though they will still receive state revenue sharing funds.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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Reny said he doesn't think the governor's budget will pass as proposed, but he also said it can't be ruled out.

"The state is struggling right now," he said.

If the cuts do go through, he said, town voters would choose between using fund balance reserves as a temporary, one-year solution, or paying more in property taxes.

Harold "Jim" Murray, a Fairfield councilman, said he didn't think the town had gone far enough in cutting the budget.

"We had to pull a number out of the air," he said. "We're only surmising and guessing."

Small towns like Vassalboro and Albion will be especially hard-hit by revenue sharing reductions, according to Mary Lee Rounds, chairwoman of the Albion Board of Selectmen.

"We're so close to the edge all the time," she said. "Because we're a small town, we can't cut what the bigger cities can."

Vassalboro didn't prepare for the loss of about $272,000 in state revenue sharing when crafting its $1.7 million budget, up slightly from the current year.

Albion, which stands to lose about $167,000 in revenue sharing funds in its $2.3 million budget, according to an estimate from the Maine Municipal Association, is also moving ahead with a budget process that assumes flat funding from the state.

If LePage's budget went through, she said, the town would probably react by eliminating some nighttime plowing services and road repairs.

Oakland will try to handle the uncertainty by identifying expenses in the budget that can be delayed, should state revenues be scaled back, Oakland Town Manager Peter Nielsen said.

If revenue sharing does indeed get the ax at some point after Oakland's May 7 meeting, the town will deal with it by putting a halt to planned road work, said Nielsen, who is also vice president of the Maine Municipal Association.

Nielsen said the town government isn't yet committed to that strategy, but that it seems to make sense.

"It gives us maximum flexibility to adjust to circumstances as they unfold," he said. "Anything else seems to leave unacceptable holes in the program."

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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